Petersen Betters McAfee and Johnson at Libertarian Forum

By Luis R. Rivera III

The following is a contrast and comparison of the three candidates that participated in the 2016 Libertarian Party Debate showcased on FOX Business. More specifically, this contrast and comparison covers the candidates’ actual performances. It should be noted that this essay is not meant to be exhaustive, you can watch the entire debate below. The purpose of this essay is to examine the significant discrepancies among the candidates’ positions. The superiority or inferiority of the candidates’ answers will be measured by how compatible or incompatible they are with the non-aggression principle (NAP). These four selections are topics which are followed by the competing views represented by each individual. These views are then examined through the lens of the NAP or Libertarian Pledge.

The first question posed by John Stossel circled loosely around welfare. The two candidates’ responses that will be analyzed will be John McAfee’s and Austin Petersen.


“Would you cut the Welfare programs for the poor? Who will take care of the helpless?” -John Stossel


This question was directed at John McAfee. He responded in the following way:

“It’s a very complex issue, Mr. Stossel… everyone on Social Security paid money that they worked hard to earn into a system that the government promised would pay them back when they were older. Now, that is a commitment that we made as a government…as libertarians do we not meet our commitments seriously? It is an obligation. It’s the obligations that we are not meeting which is [sic] the problem.”

McAfee’s view here is incongruent with the NAP doctrine. His error is he conflates the government and the private individual and as a result also conflates the actions of the former with that of the latter. If one understands, that the consequences that stem from the direct actions of one entity cannot be placed upon another entity, then one can understand the logical implications of McAfee’s statements. These implications are that the private individual is responsible for the failure to have protected the people of New York from the 9/11 attacks, as well as responsible for the failure to have protected the people of Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, responsible for the national debt, responsible for the incarceration of people who have committed victimless crimes, responsible for pre-emptive strikes conducted by the military, responsible for the notorious bailouts such as TARP and so on. This, of course is an absurdity, one illustrated to show that if McAfee’s statement above is to be consistently applied one will come to this inevitable conclusion.

A more  libertarian view on this issue would be: Those that make promises are responsible to uphold them without stealing from others to satisfy this contract. If one is able to understand McAfee’s position, one can see that McAfee is advocating coercion. Coercion is never legitimate and McAfee is attempting to legitimize it.

McAfee finished his long winded response with “We send young men and women off to war. Saying ‘go and risk your life and your limb for your country and when you come back without limbs…Well, we’re sorry. We will give you the lowest possible care.”

Now, we go to Austin Petersen’s response which is in stark contrast to his opponent’s. If you notice, the answer from our candidate relied on nothing more than an appeal to emotion “worked hard to earn” and “risk(ing) your life and limb for your country and when you come back without limbs…” This prompted Stossel to ask “These are nice thoughts but what agencies would you cut?”

Petersen responded with “I would cut them all!” He did not stop there. He corrected McAfee on his wrong answer “They had no right to take it from us in the first place…” Petersen, then offered a free market substitution for welfare benefits. “The church would love to help people but government gets in the way.” This, of course, implied that the government should get out of the way and permit the church or other charities to take its place.

Next up was Foreign Aid.


Submitted question: “If you become president will, you end all US foreign aid?”


McAfee stays consistent on the issue. In a short answer McAfee responds “…we have commitments…these commitments if made we have to keep.”

This answer, albeit consistent with his previous answer, is another blatant violation of the NAP of which he pledged to defend. Petersen, being a minarchist, was the only of the three candidates who refused to take the oath of ascribing to the NAP; keep this in mind throughout these head to heads. When it was Petersen’s turn to respond, the youngest candidate in the debate answered with “I do not believe in foreign aid and… I would cut every penny of foreign aid.”

The next topic was neither the host’s question nor the audience’s. It was Petersen who called out Gary Johnson on one of his positions.

“We had a big kerfuffle in Oregon last week because governor Johnson has said that bakers should be forced to bake wedding cakes for people that they disagree with (such as) homosexual couples…” -Austin Petersen


Freedom of Association and Economics


“Is he correct in quoting you?” -John Stossel

Gary Johnson’s answer was “Yes but I think that if you discriminate on the basis of religion. I think that that is a black hole. Look, I think that you should be able to discriminate for stink or you’re not wearing shoes or whatever. But I’ll tell you what. To me that is doing harm to a big class of people. I think Muslims right now in the country would be banned by all sorts of people. The example that I cited: What about utility that is privately owned. Where I can buy my utility.”

Austin Petersen responded by saying: “This betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the free market. You have to allow the market place to work. The government cannot stamp out bigotry… Now, I hate bigotry and I would encourage a boycott…”

Once again Petersen was right and his opponent was intellectually lost.

The last significant discrepancy pertains to the mythical gender pay gap of equal productivity. Here, Petersen is able to articulate the economics behind this commonly held myth.


Mythical Gender Pay Gap for Equal Productivity


“Women are paid less than men. Should government be involved in fixing that?” -John Stossel

“…women should be paid the same as a man – equal pay, equal work. But the devil is in the details and having vetoed as many pieces of legislation as I have, I would find it, me, hard to sign that legislation. But I would keep an open mind to how that legislation got written.” -Gary Johnson

Once again the superiority of economic knowledge resides with Austin Petersen and not Johnson. Petersen said the following:

“The…truth is that the reason why there is this quote gender pay gap is because of women’s choices. Women fall out of the workforce, they have children. They don’t work as long of hours. So, when you look at the economic data side by side. The truth is, that the gender pay gap closes and now more women get more degrees and (at) 35 years and younger those women are actually making more because more women are going to college than men…The government should stay out of it.”

I have gone over four issues in which Petersen and his opponents have held different positions. In each case Petersen has been the more libertarian first against McAfee (twice) and then contrasted against incumbent Gary Johnson (twice).

Luis R. Rivera III has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Loyola University, New Orleans. He can be reached at LuisRivera3@hotmail.

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